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AP saves money for families, but what about taxpayers?

By Jay Mathews

In Advanced Placement Nation, that version of America populated by high school students taking college-level AP courses and tests, Florida covers a huge portion of the map. The St. Petersburg Times points out the state is number one in the percentage of graduating seniors taking AP tests and number five in the percentage of seniors passing them.

So, Times reporter Ron Matus reveals, the newspaper decided to see if Florida was getting its money's worth for paying its students' AP testing fees, something only two other states do. The Times analysis concluded that the program was saving college families tens of millions of dollars they don't have to pay for college courses that AP exempts their students from taking. Whether taxpayers are also saving money is more difficult to determine, Matus said.

"Florida students passed 114,430 AP tests this year," Matus wrote, "up from 66,511 five years ago. Even assuming a fair chunk of those tests won't translate into credits, the Times estimates Florida families will save at least $40 million in tuition and fees."

"The savings from AP to taxpayers is murkier," he wrote. "It's not clear whether the program, which cost the state $58 million last year, is paying for itself. A full return-on-investment analysis has never been done."

In my frequent columns, and three books, about AP and the similar International Baccalaureate program, I have not emphasized the financial benefits of getting college credit for the courses taken in high school. If families and taxpayers did not save a dime, I would still argue that the courses and tests are invaluable because they energize high school teaching and learning and prepare students for the academic demands of college. The full fee (low-income students get a cut rate) for an AP test is $86, less than a fashionable pair of sneakers and well worth the expense in the view of many educators.

Florida Education Commissioner Eric J. Smith is at least as big a cheerleader for AP as I am, having built AP and IB programs in a succession of large school districts. But Florida was already one of the nation's leading funders of AP when Smith arrived in 2007. He has been dealing with a debate in the state legislature over whether the college-level programs are worth their cost. Matus said the legislature cut some funding in 2008 but in 2009 declined to make more cuts after supporters of the programs objected.

Matus said his newspaper's analysis found that college credits earned by this year's AP test passers "will potentially save another $30 million for taxpayers," beyond the $40 million it saved college families. "But it's hard to gauge how real those savings are," he wrote.

Matus wrote:

At Florida State University this year, a majority of incoming student had nearly enough AP credits to exempt a full semester. At the University of Florida, many students had enough to exempt two semesters. Thanks to AP, those universities don't have to offer as many basic courses, such as freshman English. But they may have to offer more junior- and senior-level courses, which cost more.

FSU and UF officials said it's unclear whether students who pass AP classes earn degrees faster. But anecdotally, there's an explosion in the number of students there graduating with double majors.

Parents like Brian and Teresa Keefer of Tampa are among those benefiting from AP credits.

Their oldest daughter did well enough in AP classes to earn nine college credits at the University of Central Florida — enough to bypass summer class requirements and all the expenses of living on campus over the summer.

The Keefers' youngest daughter also is taking AP classes to help make her more competitive for college admissions. But with Brian Keefer, an insurance executive, out of work for 18 months, the money matters, too.

AP is "a very good deal," Teresa Keefer said.

Jack Gillum and Greg Toppo of USA Today point out that the number of AP tests taken last year, 2.9 million, was 160 percent higher than the total in 1999. They calculated that the portion of students getting failing grades of 1 or 2 on the 5-point AP exams has also increased in that period from 36.5 percent to 41.5 percent.

The number of students passing AP tests, and getting college credit for them, has also increased significantly. One study indicates that even students who receive only 2s on AP exams do better in college than students who do not try AP.

There is more to learn about where AP, IB and Cambridge are going, and what effect they are having on schools and students. I hear from readers who say it is terrible that so many students are failing the AP tests, but I have talked to some of those so-called failures and they say their struggle with AP helped prepare them for college.

If anyone knows of failing AP students who have a different story, urge them to write me at mathewsj@washpost.com.

Read Jay's blog every day, and follow all of The Post's Education coverage on Twitter, Facebook and our Education Web page.

By Jay Mathews  | November 3, 2010; 12:24 PM ET
Categories:  Jay on the Web  | Tags:  Advanced Placement, Florida families save because of AP courses and tests, Florida taxpayers may also benefit, Ron Matus, St. Petersburg Times investigation, but analysis has not been done  
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Comments

Once again, Jay either omits relevant research on AP or he presents some distorted conclusions about it.

First, the Florida education commissioner, Eric Smith, is a former College Board vice president, the maker of the SAT and AP (the College Board has a sham study purporting to show that PSAT scores "predict" AP test scores). While at the College Board, Smith hawked AP relentlessly, so he is no unbiased observer, nor is he a researcher. Washingtonians may remember Smith's rocky tenure as superintendent in Anne Arundel County, where he lost support from teachers, school board members, and the community.

Second, the St. Petersburg Times report is not a study, but a flawed analysis. It assumes that a certain percentage of AP credits were "redeemed" (credited) by colleges. The Times takes that number and multiplies it by the average cost of credit hours to get the "savings" figure. But that doesn't mean that parents realized those savings. The research (Klopfenstein is a good source on this) shows that those who take AP courses do not graduate from college any faster than those who do not.

Third, Jay cites (AGAIN) a Texas "study" that suggest those who take an AP test and score as low as a 2 (a D) do better in college than those who do not. That study was funded by (guess who?) the College Board, and it was shopped to peer-reviewed journals but never appeared in one. Who published that particular study? The College Board.

Jay doesn't share that information. Nor does he share in this article the fact that there are so many caveats to the study that "the researchers who had done the work cautioned against putting too much weight on it. There were too many variables to reach hard conclusions." In other words, there isn't much to it, except to promote the College Board's AP program, and by extension all its other programs.

One of the College Board's best-known products is the SAT, a badly flawed test that doesn't do much of anything. At its very best, the SAT predicts about 15 percent of the variance in freshman-year college grades, and after that nothing at all. It is, then, virtually worthless. College enrollment specialists suggest that shoe size would work as well (or better). See:

http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2005/11/the-best-class-money-can-buy/4307/

I've said this before but it bears repeating: Advanced Placement courses and tests are grossly oversold, and the research on them proves that. They convey few if any college benefits to those who take them. They have become, though, transcript-padders for students seeking admission to selective colleges and universities. As many students openly admit: "It's all about looking good."

There are good AP courses and tests, but in general AP doesn't do much. Under rigorous analysis the AP "boost" Jay gushes over just evaporates.

Maybe one day Jay will come clean on AP.

Posted by: mcrockett1 | November 3, 2010 2:29 PM | Report abuse

I hope all will read my column on the Texas study, as attached to this blog item, and read the study itself before making up yr mind. Mcrockett1 is entitled to his opinion, but he is accepting the views of one researcher, Klopfenstein, which are at odds with the views and data provided by many other researchers, such as Geiser, who have been working on these issues much longer than she has. Indeed, her coauthor of a recent compendium of AP research, Phil Sadler, does not buy her conclusions in many cases.

Posted by: Jay Mathews | November 3, 2010 4:05 PM | Report abuse

Jay, you seem constantly oblivious as to why AP/IB are what they are.

If you take the AP Calculus exam and score about 70%, that's usually good enough to get a 5, the highest score.

According to FCPS, for example, 70% ON ANY EXAM means you ONLY know 70% of "the material", and you're a D+ student.

If you score about 50% on the AP exam, that's usually good enough for a 3, which is accepted a credit by many colleges.

Yet, according to FCPS, that percentage is dismal failure and you've learned nothing.

You claim that students who score 1 or 2 on the AP still gain something valuable. I don't disagree. But what percentage does that map to and what would FCPS say?

I could have given my students AP/IP rigor easily. What stood in my way? The administration and their twisted ideas of what high percentages mean.

How many kids get 100% on the AP exam? Can't be many, and those that do are either brilliant or work their butts off. How many FCPS students have 100 or near 100 averages? Quite a few, and it's due to not that much work.

You talk of your "challenge" index. What is a challenge if not the very real probability that you won't hit 100%. Kids with near perfect averages are usually the good kids BUT THEY'VE NEVER BEEN CHALLENGED.

The big problem is that our education experts and adminstrators are so bad at math that they're like toddlers who've been given sharp pairs of scissors.

Posted by: physicsteacher | November 3, 2010 5:15 PM | Report abuse

First, thank you Jay for another very interesting blog. mcrockett1 you might want to read the St Pete Times article and you will find that its conclusion is that there are too many variables, but someone should try to study it anyways.

Posted by: calteacher | November 3, 2010 8:43 PM | Report abuse

physicsteacher I have taken Calculus at the university level about four times, one for credit when I was young and the other times for fun. I also teach AP Calculus at the high school level. I can tell you that the AP Cal course is more rigorous then the college calculus courses I took at the universities. And by the way, I do not work for ETS, nor have stock in the company. I have studied the SAT's for the past 30 years, so I know a little about ETS.

Posted by: calteacher | November 3, 2010 8:50 PM | Report abuse

physicsteacher, for you, a gift (one you will like):

http://arstechnica.com/science/news/2008/02/aaas-redesigning-the-science-advanced-placement-exams.ars

Perhaps Jay can give us an update on the redesign attempt of AP.

Posted by: shadwell1 | November 3, 2010 9:06 PM | Report abuse

shadwell1---a great point. the AP science redesign is going ahead. they will then be way in front of most colleges. should be interesting.

Posted by: Jay Mathews | November 3, 2010 10:06 PM | Report abuse

Of course the government should attempt to subsidize the education of it's best and brightest. The only issue is whether they should pay for the tests of students who could afford to pay for themselves. In California the state helps subsidize the exam for low income students. But the underlying issue is whether that makes any real difference if the students lack the necessary skills to succeed (thus the increase in low scores). Sorry M Crockett- I'm on the front lines as an AP teacher and I will tell you there is a vast difference between those students with AP skills and those who have none even for those who do not pass the exam. AP is a business, but that.does not mean it cannot have a great benefit for kids.

Posted by: Hrod1 | November 4, 2010 12:51 AM | Report abuse

another point of view

http://northwest2.tbo.com/content/2010/nov/03/NWNEWSO9-ap-classes-and-quality-control/news/

Posted by: calteacher | November 4, 2010 9:08 AM | Report abuse

Regarding the redesign of AP science courses....since the NSF grant of $1.8 million back in 2006 to assist in the redesign, what is the current progress, given that the new courses were to be launched in 2009? Field testing dates? Jim Pellegrino's presentation in Jan. 2010 appears to indicate that the courses will be implemented in several years.
http://www7.nationalacademies.org/bose/Pellegrino_Framework_Presentation.pdf

Jay, furthermore, what is the basis for your claim that AP courses will then be "way in front of most colleges?" What will become of the virtual AP science classes, virtual labs and lab kits. How many high school labs can come close to university stocked labs? PhDs (sure, not all) vs. College Board training?

Taxpayer monies are funneled to AP through means that often go unmentioned, via grants by the US Dept. of Ed, NSF, and grants from organizations that receive initial funding from the federal kitty. And, how much more federal funding has been dedicated to the redesign of AP science courses? How will the field tested courses test - two AP tests, one for the new AP course and one for the old? What is the plan for this? And how will the public be informed?

At at time when universites are increasingly declining AP credit, or only giving credit for 5's, seems like a massive waste on money being spent on trying to emulate university level courses for students while in high school. Prepare - yes, replace - is this always desirable? Some bright students could test out of all required science courses (minimal for graduation) and totally miss out on the richness of the university science experience, which could actually cause a student to alter academic and career choice.

Excellent science courses/labs in high school, absolutely. But really, why must AP attempt to wag the dog of the entire science education of the United States of America?

Posted by: shadwell1 | November 4, 2010 9:56 AM | Report abuse

Coming from a current college student, I want to add to this discussion that my biggest challenge when starting college was my adjustment to teaching styles. In high school my teachers "held my hand" through everything. Teachers were constantly on my case to complete assignments and start work early. When I began college I quickly learned that my professors were not going to reminding me to complete assignments or even motivate me to do them, they didn't care if I passed or failed.
I blame our nation’s high schools, some but certainly not all, for not preparing students for college. Our high school teachers made things so easy for us, I remember being a senior and feeling as if I had my teacher wrapped around my finger. The mutual feeling among most seniors in my high school was that they wouldn't fail any classes their senior year. Teachers simply wouldn't fail a senior they'd just give them enough points so they could walk at graduation.
My point is, students are not prepared for college because they are not ready to let go of their teacher’s hands. Our high school’s need to do a better job of placing more responsibility on seniors. Force them to learn what College will be like before they actually get there.

Post #2 in response to article:
My response to this is simple; Why not spend taxpayer's money on AP exams and Education? As a taxpayer, I would rather see my money go to increasing the knowledge of a student, instead of the pockets of city officials or spent on pointless building improvement projects. Think about all of the pointless things our tax money is spent on. Doesn't this enrage anybody?

I just read an article on Freshmen College students who fail to launch. They begin their first semester of college and soon find themselves late on assignments and failing majority of their classes. I would say that one of the biggest reasons college students fail is because they are not prepared for college. I believe that these AP classes work in two ways; they teach the students new content but they also introduce the students to what a college class will be. Even if the student fails the AP exam, they still have the experience to help them start college in the right direction.

Finally, the statistics say these AP exams are saving families millions of dollars. We all know how expensive college can be and every little bit helps.

I regret not taking AP classes when I was in high school. I know from my peers that AP classes really do pay off once you get to college. So, in conclusion keep AP exams around, keep funding them, they really do benefit students.

Posted by: smullis08 | November 4, 2010 10:43 AM | Report abuse

It's clear that Florida's assumption of AP testing fees removes an obstacle for some families and broadens participation.

It's also likely certain that colleges do not lose money by dangling credits for AP students. They can find other students to fill the seats AP students have vacated in required undergraduate courses.

What Florida could do to make it clear that the AP program is beneficial to taxpayers is link the payment of testing fees to eventual enrollment in a state school. The state can go ahead and front the money for the testing fees, but require that it be paid back if the student enrolls outside the Florida state-operated university system. For low-income students, continue to front the money with no stipulation attached.

I don't think this would make a huge difference, but the policy makers could say that they are working to keep the best and brightest in state. If AP programming is making Florida high schools de facto satellite campuses for the higher education system, I don't see any problem with making the linkage more overt.

An aside to shadwell, who wrote--

"Some bright students could test out of all required science courses (minimal for graduation) and totally miss out on the richness of the university science experience, which could actually cause a student to alter academic and career choice."

If a student has tested out in all AP science courses, that indicates to me a strong and abiding interest in science. I think it would be the exception if this student never took an upper-level science course at a university.

Posted by: gardyloo | November 4, 2010 10:48 AM | Report abuse

For shadwell1---Good thoughts from you. The only flaw is your repeating the urban myth that "universites are increasingly declining AP credit, or only giving credit for 5's." Very selective colleges, only the top 10 percent or less in most cases, did that a long time ago, but there is no such trend among the schools, mostly state schools, that educate 90 percent of college students. That is because the professors at those schools have been very active in building the AP program. know that it can do a better job than their big lecture intro courses, and because the politicians who fund them would get a lot of heat if the professors tried to tell kids who had worked hard in AP that their tax-supported university was not going to give them credit.
But the changing of the AP science courses, as you say, is a big deal. I havent followed it closely enough to answer yr good questions, but I believe they did start piloting it this year in some schools. My view is that the new AP test is going to look very much like IB==mostly free response questions, choice of question so teachers can go deep into favorite subjects--and I don't know how the big college intro courses that AP substitutes for, like Biology 1, are going to adjust. The bio final at UVA not too long ago was 300 multiple choice questions. Will colleges like that rebel against the AP move as a blow to content mastery?

Posted by: Jay Mathews | November 4, 2010 11:15 AM | Report abuse

Jay, thank you for your answer. Some universities (yes, typically the selective ones) still deny AP credit in some courses and within some majors. Also, AP credit is not accepted by some medical schools*. Especially among the sciences, MIT gives no credit for biology or chemistry and requires a 5 in the area of physics. Princeton, 5 for biology and 4/5 in chemistry. Univeristy of Maryland, 4/5s. West VA University 4/5s. University of Washington, 4/5s mostly in the sciences. Caltech, forget it. Yale, 4/5s and none for environmental science. Vanderbilt, 4/5s with a 5 in chem. and a 5 in the area of physics, and none for environmental science. University of Texas 4/5s, 5 for biology. Duke, 4/5s, UVA, 4/5s. And on and on.

*http://thecollege.syr.edu/students/undergraduate/advising_academic_support/pre_health/_pdfs_docs/Advanced%20Placement_FAQ.pdf

Students taking AP should be aware that the AP pass score of 3 won't always get the credit they wish for in their selected college(s).

Posted by: shadwell1 | November 4, 2010 1:12 PM | Report abuse

Let me clear. There is NO BENEFIT to the taxpayer who pays property taxes in a school district that pays for AP/IB exams out of its general budget. None, nada, zip. I would love to hear Jay's explanation how skyrocketing property taxes BENEFIT the average homeowner.

Secondly, Jay also conveniently omits the cost of IB exams which far exceed AP. The first IB exam a student takes costs $237. Every additional IB exam costs $96. And of course that doesn't begin to touch on the $200,000 per IB school for every year a school runs the miserable IB program.

I am opposed to both AP and IB exams being paid for out of the General Budget. For those who feel they will benefit by saving money on college credits, let them pay for the exams themselves. If there are kids whose families legitimately can't afford the price of the exams, set up a scholarship fund to help out. But stop abusing the American taxpayer by requiring us to pay for these "non-profit" companies whose CEO's are earning in the $500-900,000 range.

Posted by: lisamc31 | November 4, 2010 1:18 PM | Report abuse

Let me clear. There is NO BENEFIT to the taxpayer who pays property taxes in a school district that pays for AP/IB exams out of its general budget. None, nada, zip. I would love to hear Jay's explanation how skyrocketing property taxes BENEFIT the average homeowner.

Secondly, Jay also conveniently omits the cost of IB exams which far exceed AP. The first IB exam a student takes costs $237. Every additional IB exam costs $96. And of course that doesn't begin to touch on the $200,000 per IB school for every year a school runs the miserable IB program.

I am opposed to both AP and IB exams being paid for out of the General Budget. For those who feel they will benefit by saving money on college credits, let them pay for the exams themselves. If there are kids whose families legitimately can't afford the price of the exams, set up a scholarship fund to help out. But stop abusing the American taxpayer by requiring us to pay for these "non-profit" companies whose CEO's are earning in the $500-900,000 range.

Posted by: lisamc31 | November 4, 2010 1:19 PM | Report abuse

I’m convinced that the existence of AP/IB courses better prepare high school students for college work. (How could it not?) At the very least, such courses prepare all students who take them for what will be “thrown” at them in college. Forewarned, forearmed.

Whether AP/IB courses and high AP test scores ultimately result in any significant financial savings in college expenditures is highly debatable. However, it’s worth studying as part of a wider assessment of successful (and unsuccessful) college students.

What I would like to see (because I’m a scientist/engineer) is a more narrow study of college students majoring in science, engineering, and mathematics (i.e., the STEM people) at all levels to understand what factors in their backgrounds have been primarily responsible for their academic success. (Might also study students who started out in “STEM” majors and who transferred out.)

A rigorous, statistically valid study of a narrow slice of college students could settle a lot questions about the value of AP/IB as well as other enhancing factors along the path to academic success. Moreover, some USG entity - such as the National Academy of Sciences - is more likely to fund such a study of “STEM” students due to the critical need for such expertise in the U.S. economy.

Posted by: fairfaxvaguy | November 4, 2010 1:41 PM | Report abuse

Lisamc31 has a depressingly narrow view of the needs and desires of us taxpayers. I am among many who pay for schools and think there is a direct benefit to me when more students graduate from those schools better educated than they would be if we had spent less on them. More money often does NOT produce more learning, but in the case of making sure every student's college-level course ends with a college-level exam, it certainly does. We have lots of data showing that students who do well on those exams also do better in college than students who did NOT take AP exams.

Posted by: Jay Mathews | November 4, 2010 4:03 PM | Report abuse

AP saves money for families, but what about taxpayers?

Posted by: herrmanne1 | November 4, 2010 4:26 PM | Report abuse

I believe that AP classes can have a great influence on a college student’s wallet but in regards to the tax payers much more information is needed to determine if they are actually savings money. This article never answered its own question. It however did frighten me to know that some high school students are achieving so many AP credits they can skip there freshmen year completely. I believe this is an awful idea, producing 20 year old professionals in the world is the last thing we need. I feel like we are rushing students into making huge life decisions at too young of an age and that high school should be a transition to college not a college its self

Posted by: herrmanne1 | November 4, 2010 4:30 PM | Report abuse

Another view, for gardyloo:

"He [Philip Sadler of Harvard] advocates that colleges and universities tighten their awarding of AP credit, since many students currently use AP credit to avoid college science courses altogether."

http://www.fas.harvard.edu/home/news-and-notices/news/press-releases/release-archive/releases-2006/ap-02172006.shtml

Philip Sadler of Harvard (also author/editor of the new book, AP: A Critical Examination of the Advanced Placement Program)

Posted by: shadwell1 | November 4, 2010 5:57 PM | Report abuse

for shadwell1---That is an interesting press release you cite. I have never asked Phil directly about it, but he never turned what he said there into a published article. Some the data he cited was freaky, and I sense he backed away from it. If you read carefully the book of his you cite, you will see he makes an opposite argument---AP science courses should be getting bigger grade bumps in high school and have much better records in producing students who go into science. He has not joined his co-author Klopfenstein in calling for less credit for AP students, at least not anything of his I have read since that weird press release, which got huge play on the internet.

Posted by: Jay Mathews | November 4, 2010 6:13 PM | Report abuse

Jay says:

"I am among many who pay for schools and think there is a direct benefit to me when more students graduate from those schools better educated than they would be if we had spent less on them. More money often does NOT produce more learning, but in the case of making sure every student's college-level course ends with a college-level exam, it certainly does."

You are among fewer and fewer who believe in wasteful spending and higher taxes. Were you in a coma on Election night? The teacher's union is already bilking us dry and you expect the general public to pay for "college level" within the K-12 public system. Tell ya what? If they're ready for college-level work then graduate them early from HS and cut costs! Put them right into community college in 11th grade. Some of my General County taxes already go to pay for the Community College, put that money to better use. Then those kids can transfer into a 4 yr. university with an Associates DEGREE already under their belts. And unlike an IB Diploma, an Associates is an actual college degree.

The public system is designed to provide an "appropriate education" for ALL students of ALL abilities. This includes a humongous expenditure on special education in every district to deliver each State's K-12 (not college-level) education standards across the board. Some States DO have provisions for gifted education in their State charters - NYS is not one of them.

You hold to the argument that AP and IB are not for gifted and talented only - that EVERYONE is gifted and even scoring a 1 or 2 is somehow a "meaningful" experience.

I say bunk. If you want a better educated public, make sure they have learned the basics and have a broad base of knowledge. Tis better to have a steady glowing light than to stumble in the dark down the long, dark tunnel of public education.

Posted by: lisamc31 | November 4, 2010 7:10 PM | Report abuse

Jay, sorry to be a bother:

from 2006..."The study’s authors, Sadler and University of Virginia Assistant Professor of Science Education Robert H. Tai, presented their findings on Feb. 17 at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in St. Louis. According to Sadler, the recent findings—which are not yet published—are a portion of a larger ongoing study. The study—which included 500 students who had taken AP exams—found that their grades were not significantly different from those of students who had not taken the advanced courses previously, Sadler said. Students who bypass the introductory level courses with AP scores eventually perform worse in higher level courses, Sadler said, citing additional findings of the study."

and,

"And Higgins Professor of Biology Daniel L. Hartl, who co-teaches the spring semester course in the year-long
introductory Life Sciences sequence, wrote in an e-mail, “From what my students know, and don’t know, I can only infer
that most AP biology courses do not have the depth or rigor to justify testing out of a college course.”

http://www.cfa.harvard.edu/smg/ficss/research/articles/Harvard%20Crimson%202_24_06%20APs.pdf

Posted by: shadwell1 | November 4, 2010 8:21 PM | Report abuse

Jay forgot to mention that AP exams are BIG profit centers for high school principals. Below is one example, and this doesn't include the fake "late registration charges" that some MCPS schools charge. ($100 at Walter Johnson HS one year.) Nice cash for the local slush fund - money doesn't go back into the County treasury - no accounting for how the AP profits are spent. We don't know how the other 23 high schools in MCPS spent their AP profit.

"Of the $86 per AP test that students pay, the school gets to keep $8 to do with as they wish. Walter Johnson administered 1,851 AP tests last spring, resulting in a profit of about $14,808."

http://parentscoalitionmc.blogspot.com/2010/01/ap-test-profit-funds-psat-tests-at.html

Posted by: jzsartucci | November 4, 2010 11:14 PM | Report abuse

I can only talk from experience. Both of my sons took AP exams. Both got credit in college. One went to a very competitive school in the NE and not only got credit for some of his AP's but also placed out of some freshman level courses which allowed him to earn a double major in engineer and business.

My second son went to a State school and got 15 hrs of credit for his AP's (4's and 5's) and will be able to earn his Masters degree in accounting in only 5 years.

Posted by: calteacher | November 5, 2010 12:08 PM | Report abuse

"Paying for itself" is a brain dead concept to apply to an educational program.

Why don't we look at the effect of AP on college graduation rates? I got 7 scores of 5 and 1 score of 4. It made it a lot easier to get through the required courses in time to say the least, and I could have easily finished in 3 years, but took on an interdisciplinary program instead.

AP tests themselves are quite good in comparison to other large tests out there. It certainly puts schools to a standard of comparison, and the highlights the fact that an A at one school is not the equivalent of an A at another. In addition to AP though, what we need is more means for children to accelerate more quickly out of high school altogether.

Posted by: staticvars | November 7, 2010 10:22 AM | Report abuse

I think that AP tests should be paid for by the family, not the public. Eighty-six dollars is not that expensive (though it is an increase from last year), especially when you consider how much money can be saved by someone who earns college credit for their score. I know some people can even take the exams for free if they have some financial problems.
I took six AP tests in high school and passed five, so that exempted me from many general education classes, and saved me hundreds of dollars. I feel that even though I failed one test, the AP class itself prepared me for college. I got so much more out of my AP classes than I would have from a lower-level class. So, even for those who don't pass tests, AP is incredibly beneficial.

Posted by: BlueNick | November 8, 2010 3:00 PM | Report abuse

In the unfortunate world of standardized testing and essentialism, AP tests have been proven time after time to work and help out families with the overall cost of college. I was myself a AP student in high school. I went into college with 15 credit hours already under my belt due to this fact. Also because of this it made my transition into college much easier. I didn't have to worry about taking a ton of classes since many of my general education classes were covered by my AP scores. Even those AP tests in which I didn't pass I felt much more prepared for once the college equivalent class began. AP helps students prepare for what college is going to be like and helps them stay on track and not lag behind once college starts up. It also has many financial benefits, even when you are forced to pay for the tests with your own money.

Posted by: shoe21 | November 9, 2010 2:08 AM | Report abuse

As a highschooler, I took 3 AP exams, which translated to 12 college credits. This was an extreme help for me financially and allowed me to avoid taking boring introductory classes where I already knew the material and could begin college by diving deeper into these subjects. I think AP is a great program and is a nice transitional period from college to high school. Whether it should be paid by taxpayers is another issue. The test fees should definitely be reduced or even supplied for lower socioeconomic students so they are given the same opportunities of all other students.

Posted by: whalenj5 | November 9, 2010 3:23 AM | Report abuse

I would have to say the benefits of AP are wonderful. Its great to give the gifted students a challenge, and allow them to receive college credit. I believe it is important to give ALL students a chance to succeed. School systems need to come up with a better way to provide funding for the testing. It is a shame that those low-income students, who are very intelligent and need the savings in college, are unable to take the tests due to costs. Could schools fundraise? Could we lower the prices? Could those who are willing, in the community donate money specifically for the tests? I believe it is the job of the school district to come up with a way to allow all students to take AP tests. This may be a stretch, and a long process, but it is important for ALL students to succeed, not those who have the money to pay for it.

Posted by: Angela89 | November 9, 2010 12:56 PM | Report abuse

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